Silver hallmarks: how will they transition after Brexit?

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One implication of Brexit that is of interest to UK-based bagpipe manufacturers – as well as pipers with silver-mounted pipes – is how their silver will be recognised after January 1, 2021.

From this date, the United Kingdom’s obligations to recognise the silver hallmarks from countries in the European Union (EU) – and vice versa – will end. Any product already on the market before January 2021 will be legal. Any new stock entering the UK market will require a hallmark recognised in the UK – and any new stock exported to EU members will require a mark recognised by those countries. The UK will continue to recognise the CCM (Common Control Mark) applied by other signatory countries.

After 1992, a European Court of Justice ruling meant EU members were compelled to recognise one another’s national marks. From 1999 on, the use of Scottish and English hallmarks – a lion rampant and a lion walking (passant) respectively – have been voluntary since then and millesimal fineness (925) has been mandatory.

“We’ve received a big increase in enquiries on the possible impacts of Brexit from both importers and exporters,” Scott Walter of the Edinburgh Assay Office told Bagpipe News. “Hallmarking has never been harmonised in the EU, but thanks to a ruling by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) most Hallmarking Member States now recognise one another’s domestic hallmarks.” For the most part, it’s worked well throughout the EU since then. As of January 1, 2021, however, we’ll are unlikely to be subject to the ECJ ruling so there will no longer be an obligation mutual recognition, unless the CCM has been applied.

With politicians playing a game of brinkmanship there may still be an agreement, however, one that will look at mutual recognition agreements. We asked Scott how that might pan out.

“Most EU countries, with a requirement for compulsory hallmarking, currently accept UK hallmarks as being equivalent to their own,” he said. “ While the international Convention and the CCM will guarantee a continuity of recognition for those EU members who are also signatories to the Convention, it will likely mean an end to mutual recognition for those EU counties that are not signatories.

The Edinburgh Assay Office in Broughton Street.

“The 1972 Convention on the Control and Marking of Articles of Precious Metals (known as the Hallmarking Convention) is likely be the only certain way to achieve mutual recognition, post-Brexit. The Convention treaty centres around specific technical rules, but some EU countries, such as France, and Spain for example, are not currently part of this treaty. We hope that mutual recognition can be extended beyond the 31st of December but we won’t know the UK/EU final position until closer to that date.”

What if no deal is agreed?

“All obligations to recognise each other’s hallmarks would cease so we anticipate that any product already on the market before the date of Brexit would be legal as it entered the market pre-Brexit and would already be in free circulation. Any new stock entering the UK market would require a hallmark recognised in the UK and, in the case of stock exported to other EU countries, it would require a mark recognised by those countries. The CCM or Convention mark will continue to be recognised in the UK and it will continue to be recognised in those countries who are also members of the Convention.

“Other scenarios may play out in the event of a ‘delayed’ exit or a ‘managed deal’ exit, but importers and exporters can start applying a CCM mark to their goods now with no impact on current import or export requirements. Post-Brexit, it will continue to be accepted by those EU member states that are also signatories to the Convention. The CCM mark can be applied to new articles along with UK Assay Office marks or as an addition to articles already bearing UK hallmarks.”

There are in the UK, four Assay Offices: in Edinburgh, Birmingham, London and Sheffield. Edinburgh is the busiest.

For further information on hallmarks on silver-mounted pipes read:
• Know your hallmarks by John J.van OmmenKloeke;
• Silver standards change under European law by Robert Wallace.